Kalynn | East Tennessee
It was an easy choice to make but still a hard thing to do.
No woman goes into it lightly. But it’s still our choice.
I was 25 and had just moved back to Minnesota from California. I’d lived in Minnesota and the Midwest my whole life but had gone to California for a year. That didn’t work out so well, but those post college years are, I think, some of the hardest for young people. So I was living at home and trying to get my act together. I had applied to graduate school and had been accepted at Michigan State University, and that was exciting, but I was not necessarily my healthiest or happiest. I had a relationship with someone who wasn’t very healthy himself and we broke up about two weeks before I found out I was pregnant. That was about two days before I was leaving for graduate school in Michigan.
Planned Parenthood had always been good to me. That was where I’d gotten all my reproductive services throughout high school and college, so that was the natural place for me to get a pregnancy test. In college I’d had a stable relationship and had been on birth control, but in the turbulent years after college I’d gone off birth control.
I went to Michigan knowing what I was going to do. I did talk to the father, and we were on the same page. He already had one child and was not interested in having another. We were not in a committed relationship and, anyway, he was not good news for me or for another child. I moved to Michigan with a few belongings, a German Shepard and only about $1,000 total. Since over half of my money had to go to paying rent, and the abortion procedure cost around $300, I didn’t have much left to live on until my first small graduate stipend check came in. This was a very stressful time.
The first thing I did in Michigan was go to another Planned Parenthood and was disappointed to learn that they didn’t do abortions there, but they had a list of providers in the area and they insisted that I come back to them for post surgical care. So I made an appointment at another place. Michigan had just enacted a 24-hour waiting period, so I did that and got their counseling, and it was fine but not necessary in my opinion, and then scheduled the abortion for about a week later. I was in a strange land and feeling disoriented, starting graduate school and all by myself trying to figure out this new life. I told my younger brother about the abortion, and he flew out to be with me, which I didn’t expect but greatly appreciated. When the day came, I was beating myself up because I was 25. Being 41 now, that doesn’t sound very old, but at the time I thought, what’s wrong with me, you know. I know better, I shouldn’t be in this position. I think I really expected to walk into a waiting room with 15-year-old girls and their parents, but there were women of all ages, ethnicities, and races, women with children, women with their husbands, and that was one of my greatest comforts that day, other than my brother being with me. It was like, oh yea, this is part of the burden of being a woman, and I don’t judge any woman here for her life circumstances, so it’s time for me to stop judging myself so harshly. And so I did. I let go a little bit of some of that self-hatred for putting myself in that circumstance.
However, again this was not a Planned Parenthood facility, and it did not take me long to realize it was not going to be a good experience. The first thing they did was call us all back, there were probably 10 of us, and give us all vicodin, like all in a line even though there was going to be a lot of time between our procedures. We had numbers and it was just very cattle-like. The other thing I noticed was just the unprofessionalism of the staff. The women at the front desk had these gigantic lollypops in their mouths, and they were sort of cackling with each other. There was not a lot of eye contact, and they kept their lollypops in their mouths when they were giving us the vicodin. It was unprofessional at best, and insulting. I had to wait a long time and I felt like the vicodin had very little effect. Anyway, when they called my name, I was ready. I didn’t have any doubt that having the abortion was the right thing to do.
But I remember being on the procedure table, and the doctor came in and he also had a gigantic lollypop in his mouth. He said to me, “Hello, I’m Dr. something something,” but I couldn’t understand because he had this lollypop in his mouth. He just said, “Sorry the receptionist gave me this lollypop, and it’s really good.” That bothered me of course, but I kind of let that go until it became clear that he was going to leave it in his mouth during the procedure. I did ask him to take it out, but he was very offended that I would even question his medical practices even though it clearly wasn’t sanitary in any way, shape, or form.
The procedure was quick. It’s not pleasant but it’s not horrible. There was a very nice nurse who held my hand and was professional, unlike the rest of the staff or the doctor, but it was emotional. There was one point in the procedure that I felt overwhelmed by unexpected emotion. I remember thinking, is this hormonal, because I wasn’t conflicted about what I was doing. Then in the recovery room when I was still upset and crying, the staff continued to be unprofessional. If I recall, it was the same women who’d been at the front desk, and they were having a conversation about how all the people who came in gave them colds. They didn’t notice that I was crying. I ended up asking if I could just leave, and then my brother was there and that was great, and he provided me a lot of comfort.
After that experience, that’s really when my advocacy for Planned Parenthood took off, because I’d always had wonderful experiences with Planned Parenthood, not just for birth control but for basic things like pap smears. When I went back to the Planned Parenthood for my follow-up care I let them know what had happened at the other facility, and they took that very seriously. I don’t know if they took that facility off their list of providers, but they were quite surprised and upset to hear what had happened. I knew my situation wasn’t typical. What I took from all of that was the importance of supporting Planned Parenthood and other good services, safe services, women-focused services, not-for-profit services. Just out of curiosity I recently looked to see if that clinic was still in business, and it is, and there are recent reviews that say very similar things about it. I mean, my procedure was over 15 years ago but there are online reviews now talking about unprofessional and horrible experiences. That’s why we need places like Planned Parenthood that are focused on women and their care.
The happy part of the story is I met my husband not long after my experience. It’s sort of funny how these things happen because I’d definitely sworn off men for a good while. I’d told myself that I was focused on school, on getting this PhD, but then unexpectedly I met my future husband. I didn’t really know how to tell him about the abortion or how he would react but he was very kind and understanding and empathetic and we were married a year later. Now we have two amazing children.
I was in no position to have a baby back then. I was not well at that point in my life; I didn’t know who I was yet. I was in transition. I had no money, no partner, and I didn’t know where my life was heading. To bring a child into that chaos and expect to be successful was not at all realistic. The most frustrating thing to me is the perception that abortion is a form of birth control. It’s really not. It’s not an easy decision for anyone to make: I still remember May 3 every year. It was an easy choice to make but still a hard thing to do. No woman goes into it lightly. But it’s still our choice.
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